Saturday, 29 April 2017 12:06

Vault 7: CIA tool to track people through Word docs released Featured

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WikiLeaks has released the source code and documentation for what it says is software used by the CIA to track documents written in Microsoft Word.

Known as Scribbles, the software enables the embedding of "Web beacons" or watermarks in Word documents so that they can be tracked down in the event of being stolen.

The version released (v1.0 RC1) is dated March 2016 and classified SECRET//ORCON/NOFORN until 2066. The accompanying documentation advises that this release candidate is not to be deployed, adding that end to end developer testing has been completed on Windows 8.1 with Microsoft Office Professional Plus 2013.

This is the seventh drop that WikiLeaks has made from what it has chosen to call Vault 7, beginning on 7 March.

The documentation says: "Scribbles (SCRIB) is a document watermarking tool that can be used to batch process a number of documents in a pre-seeded input directory. It generates a random watermark for each document, inserts that watermark into the document, saves all such processed documents in an output directory, and creates a log file which identifies the watermarks inserted into each document."

It says the tool was successfully tested on Office 2013 (on Windows 8.1 x64), documents from Office versions 97-2016 (Office 95 documents will not work!) and documents that are not locked forms, encrypted, or password-protected.

There is a limitation to the Scribbles system: if a document that has the watermarks in it and is opened in OpenOffice, LibreOffice the watermark images and URLs may become visible.

The documentation advises: "For this reason, always make sure that the host names and URL components are logically consistent with the original content. If you are concerned that the targeted end-user may open these documents in a non-Microsoft Office application, please take some test documents and evaluate them in the likely application before deploying them."

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Sam Varghese

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Sam Varghese has been writing for iTWire since 2006, a year after the site came into existence. For nearly a decade thereafter, he wrote mostly about free and open source software, based on his own use of this genre of software. Since May 2016, he has been writing across many areas of technology. He has been a journalist for nearly 40 years in India (Indian Express and Deccan Herald), the UAE (Khaleej Times) and Australia (Daily Commercial News (now defunct) and The Age). His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.

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